Shutdown Corner

  • (@ThePowerMark)

    Oakland Raiders offensive tackle Jared Veldheer has been lifting weights this offseason.

    And apparently doing nothing else.

    No time for sleep, reading a book or watching the NCAA tournament when you're trying to get pumped up like Veldheer. Not now chief, I'm in the zone!

    [More NFL: Manti Te'o not worthy of first-round draft pick]

    Veldheer went from looking fairly normal, or at least as normal as a 300-pound man can look, to what you see in the above picture, which was posted by strength coach Mark Ehnis (@ThePowerMark on Twitter). Veldheer is the guy in the blue shirt, if you couldn't guess.

    Now you glance at his picture a dozen times to confirm to yourself it's real.

    Read More »from Oakland Raiders tackle Jared Veldheer has muscles on top of his muscles
  • Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant eyeing 2,000-yard season

    Dez Bryant thinks a 2,000-yard season is possible (USA Today Sports Images)

    With 92 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is coming off his most productive of his three seasons in the NFL.

    Bryant came on very strong in the second half of last season, playing through a broken finger and painful lower back injury to catch 50 passes for 879 yards with 10 touchdowns in the final eight games of the season. With an offseason to get healthy, Bryant told ESPNDallas.com that he could be the first 2,000-yard receiver in NFL history.

    "That's still scratching the surface," Bryant said of his 2012 performance. "It's only going to get better, to be honest. I still have a lot to give. I feel like nobody's seen anything. Nothing.

    "I feel like it can be a lot more than that. That's just being honest. I honestly feel like [2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns] can potentially happen."

    Read More »from Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant eyeing 2,000-yard season
  • Matt Flynn in the 2012 preseason. (AP)

    The Seattle Seahawks unquestionably gamed free agency this year, adding star players at key positions of need on both sides of the ball. They traded for ex-Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, and then signed Harvin to a long-term contract to add explosiveness to their passing game, Then, they nabbed two of the more prominent pass-rushers in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, leading many analysts to assume that a team that already went 11-5 in 2012 could very well be on the way to a Super Bowl run.

    However, two things still bedevil head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. First, the loss of the first-round pick in the Harvin deal -- Schneider is a hard-core draftnik, and though he had no issue giving up the pick for a player of Harvin's potential value, you know he'd want more chips in later rounds. And then, there's the Matt Flynn situation. The former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback signed with the Seahawks before the 2012 season, and his three-year, $19.5 million contract would have seemed to insure him the starting position for his new team.

    Then ... well, Russell Wilson happened, and Flynn was put very much on the back burner. 26 regular-season touchdowns, one playoff win, and one near playoff comeback later, Wilson, a third-round rookie, had redefined Seattle's quarterback situation in ways few could have imagined. And with a weak free-agent market at the position, not to mention a draft class full of iffy quarterbacks, it was just a matter of time before Flynn's name became a hot one on the trade market.

    [Also: Pro day observers: Manti Te'o not worthy of first-round draft pick]

    According to one report, that time is now. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported on Tuesday that three teams are talking to the Seahawks about acquiring Flynn's services. La Canfora says that the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, and Buffalo Bills are in the mix, and though the market for Flynn has been lukewarm to date, a trade could happen before the draft in late April.

    The Jaguars would be a sensible destination for a couple of reasons. New head coach Gus Bradley was Carroll's defensive coordinator from 2010 through 2012, and though the Jags are pretty clearly ready to move on from Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville may want to use their second overall draft pick on a lineman, or other player with more pure talent than any draftable quarterback. The Raiders need a competent starter because they're almost certainly going to cut ties with Carson Palmer unless Palmer reverses course and chooses to re-structure his currently ginormous 2013 cap number. They have the third overall pick and may also want to avoid reaching for a quarterback just because. And the Bill recently released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Many people have tied new Bills head coach Doug Marrone to Ryan Nassib, Marrone's signal-caller at Syracuse, But very few people see Nassib as a first-round pick, and the Bills pick eighth in the first round.

    If the Seahawks could move Flynn and nab a couple of mid-round picks in return, it would benefit them in two ways.

    Read More »from Report: Seahawks may have multiple trade partners for QB Matt Flynn
  • Matt Barkley's college success didn't alleviate all the NFL's concerns. (Getty Images)

    "A man's GOT to know his limitations." -- Clint Eastwood, as Harry Callahan

    LOS ANGELES -- When Matt Barkley starts throwing the ball at USC's pro day on Wednesday afternoon at Cromwell Field, he might be facing more pressure, and have more on the line, than any draft prospect this year. While the spotlight was focused on Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o for his pro day on Tuesday, at least Te'o was able to get on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf and do his thing. Barkley was hindered by the remnants of an in-season shoulder injury and could not throw -- leading to more questions than ever about his arm strength, and how his physical measurables will transfer to the NFL.

    Those in favor of Barkley as a future star in the pros point to his poise, experience, intangibles, and ability to play well against some of the NCAA's best teams with a high-profile program under recruiting restrictions and bowl bans left over from the end of the Pete Carroll era. Those opposed bring up Barkley's generally underwhelming arm, and the efficiency drop-off he suffered in the 2012 season. Many believed Barkley to be a top-10 prospect had he made himself available for the 2012 draft, but he chose to stick it out another season. He threw 15 interceptions to seven the year before, his completion percentage dropped from 69.1 to 63.6, and though his yards per attempt jumped from 7.9 to 8.5, he did not end his USC career well at all, throwing nine of those 15 picks in his last four games. The Trojans lost three of four to end Barkley's portion of the season, which came to a crashing halt with a separated shoulder against UCLA on November 17.

    Barkley's November shoulder injury ended a frustrating season (Getty Images)

    At the combine, Barkley was under the gun, answering tough questions about everything from his arm strength to his less than imposing senior season, to how ready he'd be for that pro day. When he was asked if he possessed the velocity required for NFL success, you could tell that he'd been hit with that one before, and he was pretty tired of having to deal with it.

    Read More »from Matt Barkley’s best method at pro day and beyond? Acceptance of reality
  • Cleveland Browns add Jason Campbell to the quarterback mix

    Jason Campbell has agreed to terms with the Browns (USA Today Sports Images)

    Free agent quarterback Jason Campbell has agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Cleveland Browns, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

    Financial terms were not disclosed.

    Campbell, a 2005 first-round pick out of Auburn by the Washington Redskins, has completed 60.9 percent of 2,182 pass attempts for 14,682 yards with 76 touchdowns and 52 interceptions for a passer rating of 82.5 in 77 games with the Redskins, Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears.

    After spending the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Raiders, Campbell signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract to backup Jay Cutler with the Chicago Bears. Campbell started one of six games for the Bears, completing 32-of-51 pass attempts for 265 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Campbell was also sacked six times during his brief stint with the Bears.

    Read More »from Cleveland Browns add Jason Campbell to the quarterback mix
  • Justin Durant (r.) will join the Cowboys...soon (USA Today Sports Images)

    The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with free agent linebacker Justin Durant, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

    A minor hiccup to Durant joining the Cowboys is that the team is currently around $100,000 under the cap and will need to make a move or two to officially welcome him to the fold.

    Durant has spent the last two seasons with the Detroit Lions, where he started 26 of 29 games and posted 171 tackles with 1.5 sacks while earning $5.5 million on a two-year deal he signed as an unrestricted free agent after beginning his career as a 2007 second-round pick out of Hampton by the Jacksonville Jaguars. As the NFL gets set to begin its third week of free agency, Durant's deal is not expected to break the bank, but the deal cannot be signed until the Cowboys create a bit more cap room.

    [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit]

    More appropriately, the Cowboys need to move a few more things around as they've already released defensive end Marcus Spears, linebacker Dan Connor and safety Gerald Sensabaugh and renegotiated the contracts of DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, Jason Witten, Orlando Scandrick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and even backup center/guard Ryan Cook, who surrendered $500,000 in "likely to be earned" playing-time incentives that would have applied to Dallas' 2013 cap.

    Even with those moves, the Cowboys are still window-shoppers in free agency, meeting with Durant, cornerback Will Allen and safety Michael Huff, but lacking the financial ability to put pen to paper.

    Read More »from Cowboys will sign linebacker Justin Durant (when they have the cap room to do so)
  • On Tuesday, Manti Te'o got one step -- and second -- closer to the NFL. (AP)

    There are times in life when a single second makes all the difference. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o encountered such a moment during his school's pro day on Tuesday. After running a 4.82-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in late February -- a considerable disappointment for any player who needs to rely on his speed on the field -- Te'o rebounded well by running a 40 at Notre Dame's indoor facility that was timed unofficially between 4.71 and 4.75 by several sources on the scene.

    It's not the end-all and be-all for a player who still has some weak spots on tape, but the fact that Te'o was able to overcome all the distractions he's encountered in the last few months is a sure sign of encouragement.

    [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit]

    "I think I did pretty good," he told ESPN's Josina Anderson and Todd McShay after his workout. "I felt good out there, and it's good to be back home with guys I spent the last four years with. Definitely a great comfort level there, and whenever you're comfortable and relaxed, good things are going to happen."

    Te'o's continued pre-draft workouts in Florida put him in good stead -- he looked far more fluid when running this time around, which could be a result of a better sleep cycle.

    "I just focused on things that needed to be corrected," he said. I obviously wanted to improve my 40 time, and spent a lot of time on that. I was pleased with the way I did my [agility drills] at the combine, so I didn't have to focus on that as much. All the attention was on my 40, and I'm very pleased with what I did today."

    Read More »from Manti Te’o runs in the 4.7s at his pro day, but questions still remain
  • Catching up to Denard Robinson has never been an easy task. (Getty Images)

    In four years as Michigan's quarterback, Denard Robinson created enough video game-style plays to apparently make such concepts a reality. Robinson, who was streaky as a passer but set an FBS record with 4,495 career rushing yards for a quarterback, won the vote to make the cover of EA Sports' NCAA Football '14 video game, just in time for his NFL transition.

    "It's an honor to be on the cover, and I want to thank all the fans who voted," Robinson told me on Monday, the same day that he was taking the cover pictures. "I think it will be one of the best games to come out, because they've added a lot of updates. I'm a gamer -- I'm not just biased because I'm on the cover. I always play as Michigan, and I'm pretty good at it."

    Of course, Robinson couldn't play as himself -- the NCAA game doesn't use the likenesses of actual players, because the age-old question of payment to players would be raised. The ongoing player likeness lawsuit, unquestionably related to this issue, has those remaining supporters of the wildly outdated "amateurism" concept more nervous than ever. EA Sports did not comment when asked if cover stars received income for the use of their image and name.

    Robinson beat out Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope in the cover voting finals, which presents an interesting dichotomy between college success and professional prospects -- neither Robinson nor Swope will be selected on the first day of the draft. Robinson, in particular, is undergoing an interesting transition from college quarterback to potential NFL jack-of-all-trades. He hopes to develop a future as a do-it-all space player in the mold of Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb.

    [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit]

    As Greg Cosell of NFL Films and ESPN's NFL Matchup wrote in a recent article for Shutdown Corner, the NFL and Robinson's style of play are on a collision course.

    One tactic that I repeatedly see in college with both the quarterback under center and in the shotgun is a player from outside the formation, usually from a wide receiver position, motioning into the backfield with speed. That places a tremendous pre-snap burden on the defense ... It’s a means of expanding the field, utilizing more space and forcing the defense to defend more area.

    There's no doubt that the NFL is more open and receptive to these types of players; Robinson's challenge is to become a receiver when he never was one before. His attempts to show out at that new position during Senior Bowl week were tentative at best -- while he showed the demon speed for which he is renowned, Robinson wasn't exact on routes and had issues catching the ball consistently. A lingering hand injury exacerbated the debits of inexperience, but it was hard to go away from Mobile thinking that this was a future star in that role.

    A month later, we saw the merits of directed effort when Robinson hit the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for combine drills, and looked like a completely different player -- or, to be more exact, an actual receiver. As Robinson told me, there's only one way to make that leap -- reps. In Robinson's case, he did so with the help of former Carolina Panthers receivers coach Richard Williamson.

    "I continue to work with him, and I think I'm getting better every time I step on the field," Robinson said. "And that's one of the things I'd always thought -- prior to the Senior Bowl, I'd never played receiver, and I just went out there and tried to play it. I did have a limiting injury, but when I got to Lucas Oil Stadium, it was better. I just kept putting the time in, and working with dedication, and that's why I had success. And when I went to my pro day, I had success because I knew I'd put the time in, and I knew what I was working for."

    Read More »from NCAA Football ’14 cover man Denard Robinson is ready for the NFL switch
  • Shaun Rogers lost a lot of jewelry in Miami last weekend (USA Today Sports Images)

    New York Giants defensive tackle Shaun Rogers had nearly half a million dollars in jewelry stolen from him during an apparent burglary in his room at the Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida this weekend, CBSMiami reports.

    According to the report, Rogers and some friends left the hotel room to hit the clubs and before returning to the hotel with a woman at 7 a.m. Rogers placed the jewelry in the hotel safe but, when he awoke at 12:30 p.m., both the jewelry and the woman were gone.

    Among the missing items were diamond earrings worth $100,000; two wristwatches worth a combined $160,000; a gold necklace with gold pendant worth $50,000; gold bracelets worth $60,000; and a diamond Cuban necklace with a gold pendant worth $70,000.

    Rogers entered the NFL with the Detroit Lions, who selected the former Texas standout with the 61st overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft. Rogers went to three Pro Bowls earlier in his career and was among the league's highest-paid defensive tackles, earning over $27 million from the Cleveland Browns (2008-10) and New Orleans Saints (2011) before signing for the league minimum with the Giants in 2012.

    [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit]

    Read More »from Giants defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has nearly $500K in jewelry stolen in Miami
  • Cosell’s Take: Geno Smith is still a work in progress

    Geno Smith is a quality player, but there's still work to be done. (Getty Images)

    The time is upon us. It is one month until the 2013 NFL draft. As is always the case, there is only one position that generates unbounded passion and emotion: quarterback. Perhaps that is even more indisputable this year given the lack of that one, or two special talents like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. With the field more wide open, as it were, the debate only intensifies as to who is the best NFL prospect among a larger group. For some, only one or two quarterbacks are part of that conversation; for others, that discussion must include six or seven.

    Pro days only magnify the process, and amplify the fervor. Geno Smith completes 60 of 64 passes at his session, and you would have thought by the extensive coverage that he had just won the Super Bowl. Landry Jones completed 66 of 70 at his pro day (one day before Smith’s), and you wouldn’t even have known that it happened. It’s a fascinating dynamic. Somehow watching quarterbacks throw in T-shirts and shorts to receivers they know well in a controlled environment with carefully scripted passes is seen as a meaningful measurement of future NFL success. One value of a pro day, as far as I’m concerned, is to observe a quarterback throw live, to see how the ball naturally comes out of his hand. That’s significant, because in the NFL, contrary to what many might tell you, arm strength matters.

    Yet, there’s more to it than that. Snapping off throws with comfortable drops into the pocket and no pass rush pressure is not the same as delivering strikes in a muddied pocket with bodies around you in the cauldron of a collapsing pocket. If you are primarily a pocket passer, you must be able to do that in the NFL, or you will not be able to play at a high level consistently. Make no mistake, whatever offense you run in the NFL, even if it features a high percentage of shotgun and multiple receivers, you still will face critical game circumstances in which you must stand and deliver. That’s the reality.

    Therefore, it’s singularly important to evaluate college quarterbacks based on what they will have to accomplish on Sundays, not solely on what they achieved on Saturdays. I remember evaluating eight or nine games of Blaine Gabbert coming out of Missouri a few years ago. He had a strong arm, could make any throw. He ran a true shotgun spread, with a high percentage of 1 step drop passes that diminished the likelihood of any pressure. There was only a small sample of deeper drop throws in which the pass rush was a factor. I studied those very carefully. Those would be litmus test examples of what he’d have to do in the NFL. Gabbert was very poor in those situations; his footwork broke down, he fell away from his throws, he simply could not function effectively. That was an immediate red flag as I transitioned him to the NFL. Unfortunately, it’s only been exacerbated in Jacksonville, and it will likely prevent him from being a quality starter.

    Let’s advance the discussion to Geno Smith, now being talked about as a top 10 selection in the draft. There was much to like in the 500+ plays I scrutinized, and also some issues that need to be cleaned up. There’s no question Smith has an NFL arm; it’s not a gun but it’s strong enough to make every throw. Remember, though, he predominantly ran a shotgun spread offense at West Virginia. Why is that important to mention? Because spread passing offenses, in the college game with the wider hash marks, provide a large number of easy throws that inflate completion percentage. That’s not Smith’s fault -- it just means that any dialogue about Smith that begins with statistics is not relevant to any meaningful evaluation.

    Keeping in mind that no quarterback enters the NFL a finished product, I found Smith to be a work in progress.

    Read More »from Cosell’s Take: Geno Smith is still a work in progress